Trustees at the Toronto District School Board (TDSB) have voted in favour of a motion to replace the current Grade 11 English course with curriculum which instead focuses on First Nations, Métis and Inuit writers.

The motion carried with a vote of 18-3.

Before the vote, student trustee Isaiah Shafqat, who is Two-Spirit Mi'kmaq and Loon clan, urged trustees to support the motion. He said doing so sends a message of solidarity and a message that Indigenous perspectives matter.

"I want to stress to trustees and the public that we are not swapping out Shakespeare, Dickens or (other) classic literature for Indigenous authors like Leanne Simpson or Tanya Talaga. We're simply dedicating one of the four compulsory English credits each and every high school student must have to graduate to an Indigenous education course," he said.

"This fulfills the Truth and Reconciliation Commission of Canada's calls to action 63.1: make age-appropriate curriculum on residential schools, treaties, and Aboriginal people's historic and contemporary contributions to Canada a mandatory education requirement for kindergarten to grade 12 students."

A number of trustees also spoke in support of the motion, saying it is a critical step and opportunity for enrichment for students.

"By incorporating Indigenous authors and texts into Grade 11 English, students are not only meeting the Grade 11 English expectations, they are being exposed to a whole range of remarkable First Nations, Metis and Inuit literature that they may not otherwise learn from in other courses," TDSB Chair Rachel Chernos Lin said in a statement after the vote.

The motion was moved and carried at the TDSB’s Planning and Priorities Committee on Jan. 26.

It asks that the director of education present a report on a plan for the gradual implementation of Contemporary First Nations, Métis, and Inuit Voices (NBE3U1) (NBE3C1) as the compulsory Grade 11 English credit for University, College, and Workplace in all TDSB secondary schools.

The course is already available at some schools as an alternative to the compulsory Grade 11 English course, but is not mandatory. No changes are being proposed to the English program for grades 9, 10 and 12.

While the course focuses on contemporary First Nations, Métis and Inuit voices instead of European writers, it is still designed to prepare students for the compulsory Grade 12 English course.

In moving the motion at the TDSB’s Planning and Priorities Committee, trustees cited the inclusion of First Nations voices in the mandatory curriculum as being part of the implementation of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission of Canada’s recommendations and recognizing such voices as being “an integral part of Canada’s History.”

The motion asks that the director of education present a report no later than June of this year. The motion also asks that that the director explore how to embed Indigenous education into the Advanced Placement and International Baccalaureate programs at the TDSB as well.

Colleen Russell-Rawlins, board's director of education, said in a statement that she fully supports the implementation of the course.

“Indigenous elders and scholars have reminded us that truth must come before reconciliation, yet the TDSB and the Ontario education system have no mechanism yet for ensuring that all students learn the truth about Indigenous brilliance, contributions, history, and learn from contemporary Indigenous voices in Canada," she said. "This is an exciting opportunity to ensure our students graduate with a greater understanding of Indigenous cultures and history than their parents/caregivers."